Launched in 2011, the Tuungane project in Tanzania uses the Population, Health and Environment (PHE) approach, which integrates family planning (FP) and reproductive health with conservation programming - with the ultimate goal of ensuring that community members are able to live healthy lives in balance with their environment in areas with rich natural biodiversity. Tuungane (Kiswahili for “Let’s Unite”) is a collaboration between the Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Pathfinder International, a global reproductive health organisation, and local and district governments of Uvinza and Tanganyika districts of Kigoma and Katavi regions respectively. Together, they are working to: improve governance and natural resource management; expand access to reproductive, maternal, and child health services; raise community members’ awareness of and access to FP; and improve understanding of the linkages between healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies, natural resource management, and improved livelihoods. Project activities such as training community health workers, community theatre, and the establishment of Model Households and Beach Management Units are designed to create awareness, promote community participation, and change behaviours.

Communication Strategies: 

Overall, the Tuungane Project goals are to:

  • Build the capacity of village governments: Design training programmes that meet specific community needs; enhance participation and transparency; educate and engage local leaders in population, health, and environment strategies.
  • Improve local governance: Enable long-term support for population, health and environment strategies.
  • Strengthen forest management: create and implement a comprehensive land and water protection plan, with local and national government endorsement.
  • Enhance Lake Tanganyika fisheries management: catalyse co-operative fisheries management at the village level.
  • Improve access to health-care information and services: Strengthen local government capacity and train community health workers.
  • Diversify and improve livelihoods: focus on food security and access to markets.

Activities involve the following:

  • Training of health providers and rehabilitation of health facilities so people receive the quality sexual and reproductive health care they need and deserve;
  • Making sure essential drugs and supplies, including contraceptives, are always available in the hardest-to-reach villages;
  • Helping women and girls gain control over their sexual and reproductive health, so they can earn income and participate in decision-making in their communities;
  • Presenting information about conservation and reproductive health at the same time, so men are more engaged and willing to support their partner’s choice to use contraception;
  • Creating and supporting teams of local fishers and farmers so they can lead efforts to protect the lake and forests for future generations; and
  • Encouraging leaders in the local, regional, and national governments to broaden the reach of the PHE approach.

The following are some of the more specific communication-focused activities related to creating awareness, promoting community participation, and changing behaviours:

Trainings - In the past, community health workers were trained only on specific health issues. Now, local health workers receive cross-training on agriculture, fisheries, and the connections between household health, reproductive health, and the environment.  Besides linking the two related issues, combining the two issues also encourages men, who are interested in the information on agriculture and fishing, to learn about reproductive health issues - leading them to be more engaged and willing to support their partner’s choice to use contraception.

Model Households and Model Household Motivators - The project uses strategies such as fostering Model Households which serve as local learning sites for positive conservation and healthy behaviours. These households contain the elements likely to lead to improved health, food security, and economic and environmental sustainability: latrines, "tippy taps" for hand washing, dish racks, kitchen gardens, fruit trees, rain barrels, woodlots, and advocates for family planning. These households teach each other about Model Household principles.  More than 300 households have volunteered to be Model Households.

Community management of resources - Beach Management Units: The Tuungane programme works to build residents' capacity for managing resources that require communal action, such as the protection of critical spawning grounds and ensuring larger fish catch sizes.  To achieve this, the project supports the establishment of Beach Management Units – local groups that govern lake resources. Over 1,200 fishers and other stakeholders have so far joined the Tuungane Beach Management Units to share sustainable fishing practices.

Community theatre - The project uses drama to communicate integrated PHE messages which will help promote adoption of positive PHE behaviours and create community awareness and understanding of major issues across key project sectors. Drama groups have been trained and set up to perform a variety of skits related to PHE. 

Community Conservation Banks (COCOBA) – The project facilitates establishment of Community Conservation Banks as a unifying economic factor for the groups. Through these COCOBAs, community members are able to access finances to invest in conservation-friendly micro projects that ultimately improve the livelihood status for the households.

Development Issues: 

Reproductive Health, Natural Resource Management, Health

Key Points: 

Rationale for the project:

In rural villages in Western Tanzania near Lake Tanganyika and Mahale Mountains National Park, communities have little access to voluntary family planning and other health services, and consequently, high fertility and poor health. Since almost everyone in the area grows their own food, farms are expanding to meet the needs of a growing population, which can drive soil sediment into Lake Tanganyika and have negative impacts on fish populations upon which people depend for sustenance and livelihoods.


Click here for detailed results of a 2016 household follow-on survey and outcome assessment for the Tuungane project.

Partner Text: 

Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Pathfinder International, and local governments.

See video

The Nature Conservancy website, The Nature Conservancy website, and Pathfinder website on October 10 2017, and feedback received from Sono Aibe, Patherfinder International, on October 13 2017.